I enjoyed your oats article.
I too am an "oaty,” as I have between one-sixth and one-fifth
of my rotation in oats every year (that doesn't count the acres
of oats used as cover crops). You mentioned many good things that
I also love about oats, including the option to cover crop following
I find some additional benefits:
Planting the cover with the oats--usually clover--which will
become a thick nutrient-laden mass to either plow down for a fall
grain crop or leave intact until the following spring (really
good for soil structure).
Reaping the soil-healing benefits of growing oats--good for
structure, biology and mineral release.
Enjoying the rotational punch of oats. According to most rotational
guidelines, oats are a good predecessor for any other crop (and
they can follow almost any other crop…except oats).
Oats give me an opportunity to control Canada thistle patches.
When they reach bud stage and are visible above the oats--usually
when the oats are in the boot--I drive around the field with my
tractor and rotary mower and grind them down to the ground. The
thistle reserves are depleted, the clover underseed takes over,
and the thistles are choked out for the year. Every season the
patches get smaller. While the thistle patches look big from the
road, the actual mowed acreage is usually less than 1 percent
to 2 percent of a field.
My major oat frustration? The emerging organic livestock industry
seems enamored of conventional livestock's corn/soy formula. Inclusion
of oats in dairy, beef, swine and poultry rations would benefit
the animals as well as allow organic farmers to include more marvelous
oats in their rotations!
Congratulations on your oat market! It's difficult to reach that
level in our neck of the woods.
(Questions follow with
Thanks for providing a good and realistic organic farmers’
John C. Simmons
OCIA certified organic farmer
North Branch, Michigan
I took your questions one-by-one. Hope this helps:
Q: What is a common
test weight for your oat production?
A: We have been
very fortunate to always have oats in the 34- to 36-pound range.
Our oats are seldom the brightest since we are in a humid area.
But they are clean, relatively heavy and of good overall quality.
Q: Your favorite
A: I used to plant
‘Ogle’ oats since I had seen a study from Cornell
University that showed Ogle to have the highest allelopathic effect
of all the varieties tested. Then I tried ‘Blaze’
oats; they yielded better and seemed to have all the agronomic
qualities I was looking for, so I've been planting that variety.
Q: Yellow or white?
Q: Do you save
and use your own seed?
A: Not as a general
rule, only because I don't have the best storage facility on-site.
I do save some seed for cover cropping and to insure that I have
something to plant, if for some reason I run out of seed and have
a small area to plant.
Q: What is your
planting rate in bu/acre?
A: As a rule I
plant oats at 3 bu/acre.
Q: Does mustard
give you any trouble?
A: Not in the past
8 to 10 years. It used to be more of a problem but for whatever
reason I just don't see it much anymore. That being said, it will
probably show up this year just to prove it's still around.
Thanks for the reply.
I've been growing Porter oats, a public variety I compared and
selected almost 10 years ago. It has since been dropped from public
certified seed sources as far as I know. I keep it on my farm as
it seems to be one of those "uniquely and specifically adapted
varieties.” It yields well and is consistently 38 pounds to
42 pounds test weight from the field. After cleaning. I've had it
as high as 48 pounds. My fields had moderate mustard the past couple
of years, but this year it looks extra vigorous. I hope it's just
part of a long-term cycle. As for planting rates, if a field has
moderate N--oats following soy for example--I'll seed four to five
bushels per acre. If I've boosted the N through compost application
or a heavy legume cover within 1 to 2 years, I back off to three
to four bushels per acre.
After a warm dry April, May was a bit cooler and damper, but not
soggy like last year. We've had enough dry days in the past two
weeks that most growers have made good progress and, like myself,
will finish this week if they're not already done. Small grain growth
is good--but weeds are close behind.
Have some questions to Ask Jeff? E-mail him
directly at email@example.com.